Folic AcidHeart DiseaseStrokeVitamins

Measuring the effect of folic acid on homocysteine and the risk of heart disease

High blood levels of the amino acid called homocysteine are thought to increase the risk for heart disease by damaging the lining of blood vessels and increasing blood clotting.

Despite this, the American Heart Association doesn’t recommend widespread use of folic acid to lower homocysteine blood levels.

Does this make sense?

Here’s the latest information.

A study in the British Medical Journal reviewed all previous studies on homocysteine and concluded, “homocysteine is a cause of cardiovascular disease [based on] the observations from all the different types of studies, even if the results from one type of study are, on their own, insufficient to reach that conclusion.”

“Since folic acid reduces homocysteine concentrations,” these researchers assumed “it follows that increasing folic acid consumption will reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Logical, but not necessarily true, based on the results of another recently completed study of more than 5000 adult women with heart disease or at least 3 risk factors for heart disease.

After 7 years of taking 2.5 mg folic acid (6 times the recommended daily intake) in addition to vitamins B1, B6, C, and E, plus beta-carotene there was no difference in the incidence of heart disease, stroke, or heart disease-related death compared to the group that didn’t take folic acid.

Oh yes, one more thing.

Blood levels of homocysteine were significantly reduced in the folic acid group vs the other group.

It’s a mystery. But for now taking high doses of folic acid might lower homocysteine in the blood, but it does not appear to lower the risk of heart disease.

11/24/06 18:23 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.